Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression

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Oxford University Press, 1989 - Military art and science - 367 pages
At the battle of Agincourt, over six thousand noblemen--the flower of French knighthood--died in a day-long series of futile charges against a small band of English archers. They charged not simply because they failed to recognize the power of the longbow, but because their whole ethos revolved round an idealized figure of the knight that dated back to Homer: the man of great physical strength and valor, who excelled at hand-to-hand combat with men of equal worth. The bow was an affront to this ideal.
As Robert L. O'Connell points out in this vividly written history of weapons in Western culture, the battle of Agincourt typifies the complex and often paradoxical relationship between men and arms. In a sweeping narrative that ranges from prehistorc times to the Nuclear Age, O'Connell demonstrates how social and economic conditions determine the types of weapons and the tactics employed in warfare and how in turn innovations in weapons technology often undercut social values. He reveals, for instance, how the Church outlawed the use of crossbows--except against muslims--to preserve the status quo of the medieval world; how the invention of the gun required a redefinition of courage from aggressive ferocity to calmness under fire; and how the machine gun in World War I so overthrew traditional notions of combat that Lord Kitchener exclaimed, "This isn't war!" Indeed, as O'Connell points out, the technology unleashed in the Great War radically changed our perception of ourselves: weapons had made human qualities almost irrelevant in combat. And with the invention of the atomic bomb, humanity itself became subservient to the weapons they had produced.
While its emphasis is historical, Of Arms and Men also draws on such disciplines as biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, and literature to illuminate the course of arms. O'Connell integrates the evolution of politics, weapons, strategy, and tactics into a coherent narrative, one spiced with striking portraits of men in combat and brilliant insight into why men go to war.

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User Review  - br77rino - LibraryThing

With a theme of intraspecies lethal predation vs. intraspecies ritual nonlethal combat, this is an excellent review of war, weapons, and fighting throughout Earth history (animal warfare initiates the ... Read full review

Contents

MECHANISMS
3
DIALOGUE WITH THE SPHINX
13
GENESIS
30
Copyright

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About the author (1989)


About the Author:
Robert L. O'Connell is Senior Analyst at the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency's Foreign Science and Technology Center. He was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. He has a Ph.D in History from the University of Virginia.

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